On Tuesday, Feb. 9, Berkeley City Councilmember Jesse Arreguín (District 4) will introduce a resolution to draft the ordinance, which could also provide tax incentives and educational resources to worker cooperatives.
Host your own "Learning to Think Outside the Boss" workshop!
Thank you for your interest in hosting"Learning to Think Outside the Boss: An Introductory Workshop on the Legal Nuts and Bolts of Starting a Worker Cooperative!" Below, find resources we've created to teach about how the law works in, against, and for worker cooperatives. This is a shorter, participatory, discussion-orientated version of our half day "Think Outside the Boss" workshop.
NOTE: These materials are updated at irregular intervals and might change from time to time. Updates are based on feedback from participants and those who facilitate the "Learning to Think Outside the Boss" workshop. Please send questions, feedback, or comments about this guide to email@example.com.
What is it?
This workshop provides an introduction to the practical steps individuals and groups need to take to establish, build, and successfully manage a cooperative enterprise. This introductory workshop attempts to bring forward basic legal and structural questions such as what is a cooperative, what is a legal entity, what rules govern fundraising and financing for cooperatives, and more. This workshop provides an overview of the content contained in Sustainable Economies Law Center's Think Outside the Boss: How to Create a Worker-Owned Business manual.
Why Do it?
This workshop is meant to provide an introduction for those looking to support cooperative development and for entrepreneurs and activists seeking to build a worker cooperative. By the end of the workshop, participants should be able to
- have a basic understanding of the cooperative form from a functional and principled perspective,
- understand the Cooperative Principles in practice,
- distinguish cooperatives from other business forms,
- distinguish between the different kinds of cooperatives,
- understand basic questions that should be asked when founding a worker cooperative,
- and think about cooperatives as they relate to the needs in their lives.
Facilitators should use a combination of lecture (minimal), experiential learning, and popular education techniques to engage the group actively in the process of learning about worker cooperatives and cooperative business development.
Beginning in 2013, SELC and the East Bay Community Law Center have been hosting half day workshops called "Think Outside the Boss" three times per year in the San Francisco Bay Area. These Think Outside the Boss workshops provide community members an introduction into the nuts and bolts of starting and running a cooperatively owned business. We go over legal issues in an accessible way to help you understand the relationships between cooperatives, employment, and community wealth-building. Attorneys, law students, and experienced cooperative professionals give short presentations on legal issues, governance structures, financing, and more. We also typically host breakout sessions on specialized topics with attorneys, cooperative accountants, business planning specialists, and discussions led by cooperative worker-members. To find the next Think Outside the Boss workshop, please visit theselc.org/events.
This facilitator’s guide was originally prepared for the 2014 JACKSON RISING: NEW ECONOMIES CONFERENCE in Jackson, Mississippi. Their clarion call to build a broad based solidarity economy in the southern US led us to deepen our intention of making legal education accessible to those building economic democracy all around the country. With feedback from the worker cooperative community, allies, and others who use our resources, we have attempted to refine this facilitator’s guide in order to increase its usefulness to the movement. We hope this guide can introduce cooperative entrepreneurs, practitioners, and cooperative developers to the basic legal concepts when starting and operating a worker-owned cooperative.
THIS GUIDE WAS PREPARED FOR A 2016 WORKSHOP ON STARTING A WORKER-OWNED BUSINESS. THE CONTENTS OF THIS GUIDE AND ACCOMPANYING THINK OUTSIDE THE BOSS MANUAL SHOULD NOT BE RELIED ON AS LEGAL ADVICE.
ALSO, SOME OF THIS INFORMATION COULD BECOME OUTDATED, AND LAWS VARY FROM PLACE-TO-PLACE. FURTHERMORE, ALTHOUGH WE TRIED TO COLLECT ACCURATE INFORMATION AND GIVE THE LAWS OUR BEST INTERPRETATION, SOME INFORMATION IN THIS GUIDE AND ACCOMPANYING MANUAL COULD EVEN TURN OUT TO BE INCORRECT OR SUBJECT TO OTHER INTERPRETATIONS BY COURTS OR REGULATORS! WE SURE HOPE THAT’S NOT THE CASE, BUT, WHAT CAN WE SAY? LAW IS COMPLICATED STUFF! THAT'S WHY WE STRONGLY RECOMMEND THAT YOU CONSULT WITH AN ATTORNEY BEFORE USING THIS INFORMATION TO FORM OR OPERATE A COOPERATIVE.
Araz Hachadourian of Yes! Magazine covers the passing of a co-op resolution in Berkeley, CA which requires the city to create an ordinance that supports worker owned cooperatives. Sustainable Economies Law Center (SELC) Policy Director, Yassi Eskandari-Qajar, is quoted extensively about how worker cooperatives benefit cities and communities.Read more
By Chris Tittle, Sustainable Economies Law Center (SELC) Director of Organizational Resilience
Last August, 200 people from across Oakland, California came together to envision and design a development plan for a small parcel of public land. For months leading up to that day, community members and neighborhood coalitions had been organizing against a controversial - and possibly illegal - plan to develop a luxury high-rise apartment complex on land owned by the City of Oakland, in a neighborhood where 75% of residents are low or very-low income and 75% are renters. Having succeeded in pressuring the City to back out of the initially proposed deal with UrbanCore Development through creative direct action and sophisticated community organizing, organizers with the E12th St Coalition wanted to create a visionary community-driven alternative - and the E12th WishList People’s Planning Forum was convened. On a sunny Sunday afternoon near Oakland’s Lake Merritt, hundreds of people shared their visions for what could be done with this public land - and not a single person envisioned a market-rate housing complex on that site.Read more
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Berkeley Passes Resolution Supporting
BERKELEY, CA (February 9, 2016) — On Tuesday, the City of Berkeley made a bold proclamation in support of democratic and equitable workplaces, passing City Councilmember Jesse Arreguín’s “Resolution Supporting the Development and Growth of Worker Cooperatives.”Read more
What do you get when you cross a worker cooperative with a 501(c)(3) nonprofit? A worker self-directed nonprofit!
As the movement for economic and workplace democracy continues to grow, we think it is vitally important that nonprofit organizations also internalize and practice workplace democracy. We've put a fair bit of thought into our own organizational structure and culture, and now we are working to provide resources, advice, research, and a peer network to support worker self-direction in nonprofits everywhere.
So what's a worker self-directed nonprofit? We are defining this as a nonprofit organization in which all workers have the power to influence the programs in which they work, the conditions of their workplace, their own career paths, and the direction of the organization as a whole. Our own experience practicing worker self-direction and an emerging body of research both show that distributing leadership throughout an organization can create organizations that are more effective at advancing their mission, more adaptable and responsive to complex systems, more accountable to their communities, and more equitable and fun places to work! Read more here.
There are lots of reasons to be critical of the nonprofit industry, but by their very nature, nonprofit organizations provide a structure that resists the strong pull toward private wealth accumulation. We should not abandon nonprofits. We should just democratize them!
Nonprofit Democracy Network
Now, more than ever, we must learn to govern ourselves. As nonprofits and movement workers committed to social transformation, how can we embody the change we want to see and become more effective, accountable, and equitable as we do it? The Nonprofit Democracy Network is a community of practice, organizational development training program, and peer support network for nonprofit organizations that want to deepen democracy within their organizations and make our movements for justice more participatory, responsive, and leaderful. Learn more and apply here!
Bite-Sized Legal Guide to Becoming a Worker Self-Directed Nonprofit
Click here to view this Bite-Sized Legal Guide, we explore how worker self-direction can help nonprofits better achieve their missions, as well as the legal considerations for becoming a worker self-directed nonprofit. This bite-sized guide also includes a sample board resolution for worker self-direction.
Model documents and other resources:
Click here to see all of the Law Center's internal policies and processes for worker self-direction. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International license for easy sharing! This public Google Folder also has an ever-growing collection of handouts, slides, model documents, and more.
Topics and Videos:
- Who Sets Priorities at a Worker Self-Directed Nonprofit?
- The Role of The Board
- Meeting Processes
- Tour the Office of a WSDN!
- Onboarding New Staff
- Dividing Labor and Assigning Responsibilities
- Fiscal Sponsorship Versus Independent 501(c)(3)
- Bringing our Whole Selves to Work
- Alignment and Resiliency
- Setting Staff Compensation
- Peer Accountability and Performance Reviews
Periodically, we run in-person trainings on how to implement worker self-direction at our Resilient Communities Legal Cafe. Check our event calendar for upcoming events or email Chris@theselc.org to discuss a team-specific training.
If you need help forming or transitioning to a worker self-directed nonprofit, we are now offering phone consultations on a sliding scale of $50 to $300 per hour. These fees support our work in developing resources and workshops for nonprofits and in growing a movement of democratic workplaces in the nonprofit sector. We are able to provide both strategy and governance advice, and, depending on where you are located, legal advice. If you are interested in scheduling a consultation, please fill out this short survey and give us a little information about what you are looking for. We can’t guarantee that we can provide consultations in all cases, since our capacity is limited.
Networking: Join our Google Group and our Facebook Group to participate in an informal peer network for active and aspiring worker self-directed nonprofit practitioners. Connect with others, ask questions, and share resources about workplace democracy in nonprofit organizations.
Share your ideas and feedback: Take this short survey to help guide the direction of this project and let us know if you'd like to collaborate!
The US has the world's largest prison population at over 2,217,000 inmates. What would happen, though, if we began looking at worker cooperatives not only as an economic development tool but also as a tool for those incarcerated by the prison industrial complex? What transformational effects could this lead to? Are there examples of cooperatives made primarily of incarcerated or formerly incarcerated individuals and what can we learn from them? How can worker coops be an effective tool for those who were formerly incarcerated and how would it support re-entry?
For those seeking new, real solutions for our incarcerated or formerly incarcerated brothers and sisters, SELC hosted a discussion with Jessica Gordon Nembhard, professor at John Jay College, CUNY and author of Collective Courage: A History of African American Cooperative Economic Thought and Practice.
Listen below!Read more
Building an economy that is truly just and resilient means putting worker ownership at the forefront of economic development policies. Local governments can play a critical role in cultivating a friendly policy environment for worker cooperative development. The question for cooperative advocates is, where do we start? This page provides some helpful resources for jump starting local campaigns to promote and remove barriers to worker-owned businesses.
Below, you will find:
The free advocacy materials available throughout this page are intended to help you start your own campaign! All of the content created and published by the Law Center is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-SA 4.0).
If you know of other local and regional policy efforts supporting worker cooperative development and would like those resources to be included here, please contact Ricardo at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sample City Worker Cooperative Ordinance
In 2015, the Sustainable Economies Law Center started building a sample "City Ordinance for the Promotion of Worker Cooperatives" with the support and collaboration of cooperative allies across the country. We used Oakland, California as a case city, and tailored the ordinance to fit Oakland's municipal code. By going through this exercise, we had created an ordinance that would lead to our local campaign, and created a model for others to use in other cities. To discuss the ordinance in more detail, please contact Sara Stephens.
>> Click here for the sample city ordinance.
>> Click here for the sample city ordinance summary.
Informational Packet for Local Government Leaders
In collaboration with our partners, we have compiled an informational packet aimed at educating local legislators about worker cooperatives and their local economic development benefits. We offer this here for cooperative advocates who aim to introduce policies to promote cooperative economies.
Packet includes: What is worker cooperative, economic and social benefits, how local governments can support business conversions to worker ownership, and more!
>> Click here for the informational packet.
City Level Advocacy for Worker Cooperatives
The Sustainable Economies Law Center worked with Oakland City council members and a coalition of supporters to introduce a Resolution Supporting the Development of Worker Cooperatives on September 8th, 2015. This resolution was an important step toward adopting a more substantial policy in that it publicly recognized the positive impact of the local worker cooperative ecosystem, and built momentum for the ordinance, which will be introduced in 2017.
>> Click here for the press release for the resolution's passage.
>> Click here for the text of the Oakland City Council Resolution.
>> Click here to watch the resolution hearing (fast forward to minute 52)!
Following on the heels of the Oakland Resolution Supporting Worker Cooperative Development, the Sustainable Economies Law Center and our allies worked with Berkeley City Council member Jesse Arreguín to develop a Berkeley resolution to promote worker cooperatives.
On February 9th, after months of lobbying Berkeley City Council members, the resolution to was passed by a unanimous vote! Not merely a symbolic gesture, Berkeley's resolution directs City staff to develop a substantive ordinance that supports and incentivizes the growth of local worker cooperatives. The ordinance would add a worker cooperative preference to the existing Buy Local contracting preference, create business tax and land use incentives for worker cooperatives, and develop cooperative-specific educational materials to supplement the City’s business support services.
The Sustainable Economies Law Center is continuing to work with City of Berkeley staff to develop their ordinance, and we will publish relevant resources here as they are developed.
>> Click here for the Berkeley City Ordinance. Check out our two page summary of the Berkeley ordinance here.
>> Click here for the Berkeley City Council resolution and informational packet we provided to Berkeley City Council.
>> Click here for the press release for the 8-6-2018 City Council Small Business Subcommittee meeting.
>> Click here for the press release for the 2-9-2016 passage of the City Council resolution.
>> Click here for a Berkeleyside Op-Ed "Berkeley worker co-op resolution could usher in equitable economic development"
Allies' Local Level Resolutions and Ordinances Supporting Worker (and other) Cooperatives!
We also hear from our partners and allies across the country about efforts to build municipal level policies for the creation of economic democracy and community empowerment.While we may not actively work with these policy initiatives, we applaud their efforts and want to lift up their work. Find more information about those efforts below.
Santa Ana, California
On August 1st, 2017, Santa Ana became the first city in Orange County to adopt a resolution supporting worker cooperatives with the "Resolution Supporting Development and Growth of Worker Cooperatives". Santa Ana's median income in 2017 was $54,640 in comparison to Orange County's median income of $81,194. "A burgeoning worker cooperative movement in Santa Ana gained momentum in the form of a resolution" passed unanimously by city council, reported the OC Weekly. Find the adopted resolution here!
"On Thursday March 23rd, 2017 Austin City Council passed a resolution directing the City Manager to come up with a broad range of policies to support Austin's cooperative economy. The city manager will be working on these policies with input from the Economic Prosperity Commission, which passed a similar recommendation that also includes recommendations related to housing and consumer cooperatives. We hope that we can not only find ways to implement the above-listed policies, but convince the City that the Economic Prosperity Commission's recommendations should be included as well." Find more information about the Austin Cooperative Business Association here.
Another resource for communities working on policy initiatives is the Democracy at Work Institute, a national organization ensuring that the promise of cooperative business ownership reaches those communities most directly affected by social and economic inequality. Follow the links to find their resources on "Community Economic Development" and "Tools for Communities."
Join the movement of grassroots economic development advocates!
Do you want to stay up to date with our city policy work promoting resilient economies and worker cooperatives? Do you want to join the movement of worker coop policy activists pushing for an economy that is truly just? Sign up below to hear important updates and calls to action!Sign up
By: Malcolm Burnley
(Originally published September 22, 2015)
"[O]n September 8th, the City Council made good with a ceremonious resolution 'supporting the development of worker cooperatives in Oakland.'
Among other items, the move recognized that these sorts of businesses — estimated to number between 300 and 400 nationally — offer wages and benefits above industry averages. The resolution, too, was a tacit acknowledgement from Council that the city will look for ways to support co-ops down the road . . .
What that municipal support might look like is to be determined. But in a draft ordinance authored by the Sustainable Economies Law Center (SELC), one of the organizing forces behind the referendum, the wish list for worker co-ops includes: getting the city to offer low-interest loans for converting traditional businesses into worker co-ops; preferential status to co-ops in the city contract procurement process; and waiving taxes and permit fees in the initial year of existence."
OAKLAND, CA (September 8, 2015) — The day after Labor Day, Oakland City Council made a bold proclamation in support of democratic and equitable workplaces, passing the “Resolution Supporting the Development of Worker Cooperatives In Oakland.” The Sustainable Economies Law Center championed this resolution in partnership with District 4 Councilmember Annie Campbell Washington, Council President and District 3 Councilmember Lynette Gibson McElhaney, and many organizational partners and allies.Read more